Odegaard double sends Arsenal five points clear …as Premier League goes into World Cup break

Martin Odegaard scored twice as Arsenal won 2-0 at Wolves to capitalise on Manchester City’s defeat and open up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League over Christmas.

Arsenal were already guar­anteed top spot in the Premier League over the festive period after Brentford stunned the Pre­mier League champions earlier on Saturday, but with new boss JulenLopetegui watching in the stands, Wolves frustrated the Gunners in a goalless first half at Molineux.

It looked as though Arsenal would head into the World Cup break with just a three-point lead at the summit until captain Odegaard tapped Fabio Vieira’s cross in from close range (55). The Norwegian then clinched a seismic victory for Mikel Arteta’s side with his second (75).

Arsenal’s 12th league victory of the season opened up a 14-point buffer between themselves and fifth-placed Manchester United in the race for Champions League football, though that early-season objec­tive has surely been cast aside by the Gunners’ relentless pursuit of a first league title since 2004.

Arteta said: “Nobody expect­ed us to be where we are right now. I am more focused on our way of playing, our way of living together, the atmosphere we have around Colney and what we have generated with our supporters in our stadium. That is much more powerful.

“It’s great to be where we are, we are enjoying that moment. We have a big break, we have to reflect on what we are doing and we are very much prepared for what is to come after the World Cup.

“When a team is in the moment you want to carry on playing. It’s not possible so we have to use the time now in the best possible way.

“Our aim is to play better as a team every single day, to have better tools to do what we want to do on the pitch.”

Wolves introduced new man­ager Lopetegui to the Molineux crowd before kick-off and the Spaniard will have been impressed with his side’s resilience, particularly in the first half, despite the result.

After Gabriel Jesus saw his early effort chalked off for offside and goalkeeper Jose Sa tipped Bukayo­Saka’s deflected cross over, Arsenal lost the influential Granit Xhaka to illness on the quarter-hour mark. His replacement Fabio Vieira en­sured the visitors retained control of the ball, but Wolves were potent on the counter.

Goncalo Guedes fired over after being played in behind by Nelson Semedo, and the Portugal inter­national thought he should have been awarded a penalty following a collision in the area with William Saliba, but VAR deemed it not to be a foul.

Jesus had two chances to end his 10-game goal drought before the end of the half but clipped the top of the Wolves crossbar before shanking a volley wide after Ben White’s cross reached him un­marked at the back post.

Those misses nearly came back to haunt the Gunners, with Guedes pouncing on Saliba’s blind pass only to see his shot deflect past the post, but a frustrating first half was forgotten about within 10 minutes of the restart as Odegaard struck. – Sky Sports

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